Under The Streets Of London – Episode 08


With a clap like thunder the timber just below Eliza went crashing into the tunnel. All around, the earth seemed to be quivering and a strange roaring sound rose from it, like a waterfall.

Eliza knew she should get back from the edge, but the horrific sight below held her, mesmerising her.

Everywhere, screaming people clawed at the collapsing edges of the tunnel, trying to climb out before it fell in on their heads and took them to a dark, merciless grave.

The whole world seemed tipped on an angle and for some reason fruit was bouncing around her feet and flinging itself into the tunnel. Eliza felt the earth crumble around her feet, sucking at them as if trying to pull her down into hell.

For a strange, giddy moment she was reminded of a trip to the seaside as a child when she’d been allowed to strip off her stockings, hold up her skirts and stand at the edge of the sea as the gentle waves lapped at her toes.

She’d been thrilled and then fascinated by how her feet were drawn into the wet sand as they receded.

Now the idyllic memory scraped against reality. This was no soft shoreline but the edge of a 10-feet abyss full of hard, sharp timbers and steel.

As it pulled her on to her bottom she scrabbled desperately to keep herself from falling. Still the earth sucked at her; she would be toppled into it in moments and buried beneath it in seconds more.

She heard herself scream. Her hands grasped desperately for a hold as dust rose around her and then, miraculously, they caught on something solid. She clasped desperately at whatever it was and hung there safe . . . for now.

She realised that, at some point in the collapse, she’d closed her eyes. Opening them slowly, she saw she was holding on to the leg of a fruit stall. It was sturdy but affixed to nothing and was tipped at a nausea-inducing angle.

Eliza recalled the tumbling apples and pears. She saw now where they had come from and also, all too clearly, saw how quickly she could go the same way.

The stall’s back legs were dug deep into the dirt, but its front ones were losing their grip as looser earth raced into the tunnel. It wouldn’t hold her for long.

Eliza fought to get a foothold, but with the timber she’d so recently seen slotted into place now lying cracked and twisted at the bottom of the tunnel, there was just a gaping hole where her feet hung. Her arms started to ache and tears clogged her throat, turning the dust to acrid goo in her mouth.

The roar of the shaking earth was louder than ever and the stall was tipping forward so that, if she dared look up, she could almost see the upper edge. She closed her eyes again.

“I’m going to die. I’m going to die here beneath the streets of London.”

Why had she persuaded her parents to let her come? After the “incident”, as they’d carefully taken to calling it, they’d wanted to send her to her aunt’s on the coast near Margate. But though fragile, she’d had different ideas.

“I want to see a bit of life,” she’d said, perched on the couch in their safe little house. A sob escaped her now at the irony of it.

“Stop it, Eliza,” she told herself firmly. “The only way you’ll die is if you let yourself get hysterical.”

She forced her eyes open again and looked around. The strut immediately below her had fallen but the next one along was still in place. If she could reach it, it might offer her a step up to the relative safety of the remaining pavement.

Drawing in a deep breath, she let go of the stall leg with one hand and stretched. The stall juddered and slid forward a little, dropping her down.

Her arm burned with the strain of holding on and the other strut was still far out of reach. It had been a stupid idea and now she would fall.

She looked down. Beneath her was a mangle of metal and wood . . . and people. Were they dead? They were making a lot of noise and they seemed to be calling her name.

“Eliza! Eliza, let go and I’ll catch you.”

She squinted through the dust.

“Henry?”

“Let go, Lizzie!”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.